French redeem themselves with Scottish win

by staff

France coach Marc Lievremont believes his side's opening 34-21 Six Nations win over Scotland proves they have recovered from a 59-16 November thumping by the Qantas Wallabies.

Lievremont, whose own position had been called into question after the Aussie humiliation - nevertheless admitted there were still things to work on in the week leading up to next Sunday's away trip to Ireland.

However, 42-year-old Lievremont cut a much happier and relieved figure than the one who appeared after the Australian debacle, coming just months after he had guided the French to their first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2004.

"It's a win, which is the first thing," said Lievremont, whose side scored four tries including two superb ones from veterans Imanol Harinordoquy and Damien Traille.

"But I was happy with the performance which had a lot of rhythm, intensity and we were good at the basics.

"We respect the Scots and they gave us a good game. But at the end of it I am very happy and it came after a not very easy preparation because of what happened before (in November)."

French captain Thierry Dusautoir, who had a frank exchange of views with Lievremont following the Wallabies rampage, said that for him and the players it had been a tense experience walking onto the pitch from which they had exited to jeers and boos last November.

"We are always satisfied with to win," said the 29-year-old Ivory Coast-born flanker, known as the Dark Destroyer.

"But this was an immense relief after living through two difficult months and with the date February 5 hanging over us. This is a new beginning.

"There was lots of pressure on us and we reacted well."

Lievremont, who was a surprise choice to replace Bernard Laporte after the 2007 World Cup, said that he had never been able to completely relax throughout the match because the Scots were always snapping at their heels.

It is something that he said he hoped would be ironed out over the week, to see his team develop a killer touch.

"We were always in control, but we could never put them (the Scots) away," said the former backrow forward, who was part of the team that lost to Australia in the 1999 World Cup final.

"We lost the ball a few times when we got in behind their defence and they also had a solid defence which forced knock-ons.

"Our lineout too suffered against theirs and I think we lost four or five of our lineouts, which we have to improve on."

Lievremont, the Senegal-born son of a French Army officer, said that both the backs and the scrum needed to shape up a bit for the Irish match, the backs to impose themselves more and the scrum as he said in the lineouts.

"They need to be a bit calmer and a bit more patient."

Lievremont, who as a result of the Australian defeat took on a more hands on role over all coaching matters, admitted that he would have to do without centre Maxime Mermoz for Ireland, which will force him into yet another centre pairing, the 19th of his tenure and a cause for some debate among his critics.

"Once again I will not be able to field the same backs line-up for two successive matches," he said resignedly but also with the hint of a smile.